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    • Jazli Aziz

      I love writing. I can't really explain why, but I do. Some people write out of necessity, like for work or school, which I do too, but I also write for fun. I have a few hobbies, and most of my free time I spend either playing video games, watching YouTube or Netflix or any of the TV shows I currently follow, or more recently, reading. But sometimes, I just want to write. I've been writing for fun since I think my early 20s, back in the day when Blogger was popular. I had two blogs throughout my 20s, then I started writing long-form posts on G+, and now, I'm on Cake, writing a new post every few days. I've also published a few scientific papers, some of my proudest accomplishments as a student of science, not just because my work was accepted for publication, but because I wrote those papers myself.

      I won't call myself an "expert", but I do feel like I have a decent amount of experience which allows me to share some tips and advice for any budding writers out there. If you're on this platform, chances are you're as interested in writing as you are reading. Or maybe you've always been interested in writing, but just never got started. Either way, here are some tips I'd like to share to help get you on your way, using the classic 5W+1H format as a foundation for this post.

      Why do you want to write?

      The first thing we need to address is motivation. Why do you want to write? For me, I usually like writing to share knowledge and information with people, or to initiate discussions. I like to write reviews for places on Google Maps, I've started to review movies using Google's new audience review tool, and if you've seen my posts here on Cake, you'll know I like to write informative posts about technology and Malaysia, sometimes both at the same time, like my post on the battle for Malaysia's e-wallet market. So when you want to write, you need to decide what your purpose for writing will be. Do you want to share your interests with other people? Do you want to ask for opinions or to initiate a discussion? Once you know why you want to write, the next part comes more naturally.

      What do you want to write about?

      After figuring out why you want to write, you can then move on to deciding what you want to write about. This might be where most people encounter their first hurdle. My best advice for answering this question would be to write about what interests you. Don't write about what's popular or trending. Write about something you care about, something you know well. Most of my posts here on Cake are about technology, because that's what interests me. Identify what you're passionate about, or what sparks your interest, and write about it. You'll find it's a lot easier to write about something that you yourself are interested in, rather than something which you find boring, which leads me to my next point.

      Who do you want to write for?

      The simple answer is this: write for yourself. I know, it seems counter-intuitive. The purpose of writing is for others to read what you wrote, but trust me, if you write for yourself rather than for others, you'll find the writing experience much more enjoyable. I'll admit, it does feel good when someone praises your writing. You feel a sense of accomplishment, but you shouldn't look to others for that. If you rely on the acknowledgement of others, you'll find yourself in a trap. Finishing an article or a post that you worked hard on, that should give you that sense of accomplishment. If you write with the mindset of pleasing others, you'll always end up second guessing yourself and worrying if people will like what you've written. If you're writing for yourself, on a topic that you find interesting and enjoyable, you'll be able to accurately judge the quality of your work as a reader, and not have to worry about others. Besides, if you're writing on a platform like Cake, you can be sure that no matter what you write about, there'll be others who will find your work interesting.

      When is the best time to write?

      This is a tricky question to answer, as different people will have different preferences. Some may prefer to write first thing in the morning, other's may prefer to write at night before they go to sleep. Some might want to get all their points ready and write in one go, others might want to write as the ideas come to them in stages. Regardless of when you prefer to write, the most important thing I can share is to write when you feel like it. Don't write when you aren't in the mood. I've written many paragraphs when I didn't really feel like writing, only to delete them completely because I wasn't happy with what I wrote. If your creative juices aren't flowing, if you force yourself to write, chances are you won't produce your best work. Similar to my previous point, in addition to writing for yourself, you should also write when you feel like it.

      Where should you write?

      There's no real answer for this. You can pretty much write anywhere you want, especially nowadays thanks to technology. If you don't have your laptop with you or if you are away from your PC, you can always start drafting an article on your phone, or at least start taking notes. This is what I do. If I get ideas for posts to write, I would use Google Keep on my phone to take notes, and the next time I'm ready to write, I'll just refer to my phone to see my notes. Things would be easier if we had an Android app for Cake, so hopefully that's coming soon 😉

      How should you start writing?

      Now that we have all the W's out of the way, all that's left is the H: how to start writing? For that, I'd like to call upon Shia Labeouf to help answer this question.

      That's right. Just do it. If you want to start writing, just do it. Once you've answered all the questions above, just get on it. No better time than the present. Don't worry about finding your style, it'll come naturally the more you write. Don't worry about criticism, especially here on Cake. I've never seen anybody criticised for the quality of their writing. Don't worry about "learning" how to write either. The best teacher is experience, so the best way to learn how to write, is to just write.

      With the ubiquity of smartphones, newer outlets for creativity and content creation have become more popular than writing, such as vlogs or podcasts. Perhaps people's propensity for quick and easy content also contributed to their rise. Be that as it may, I still believe that writing is an art form that requires a special skill, a skill that doesn't seem to translate into other forms of creativity, even if it requires some degree of writing. So if you want to start writing, just do it. If you want to make writing a hobby, just do it. It's a great skill to have, and one that I think will become more and more valuable the more technology becomes entwined in our lives.

    • Beautifully written post! Thanks for the motivation. I am a very lazy writer and while I have these long conversations inside my head, when it comes to putting it down to (digital) paper I really drag my feet. I am going to make an effort to do better and take a few cues from your post.

      Thanks for sharing these useful tips. I enjoy reading your posts because they are so well structured and easy to consume. Keep up the great work buddy! 🙂

    • One of the letters that I felt was missing in your 5Ws and 1H is an “F”.

      F as in formatting, which you do a brilliant job of in your above post.  

      I have found that Cake’s italics is visually off-putting, and a disruption to ease of reading, if it’s used for more than one sentence in a paragraph.

      Sign-post each section with a heading formatted in bold

      Long-form posts, which I’d define as anything more than seven paragraphs*, usually benefit from breaking content into sections that are set off with a heading.  It also helps to use bold or italics to emphasize a key point to your reader.  

      Using quotes in your posts, and properly crediting the source with a hyperlink or embedded link, can add credibility and interest to your argument.  

      Setting off long quotes is helpful, but I think they shouldn’t be longer than a couple paragraphs: the greyed out text can become visually taxing, like italics, if overused.  You can also center a profound bit of wisdom, such as this one from 365 Photos Later:

      Practice makes perfect.

      Use visuals throughout your post to separate sections.  Embedded links, which is a link that has been expanded into a clickable image like this

      can provide a momentary break from deep reading, which may be needed for readers after they’ve consumed multiple scrolls of content.

      *I have no idea where the line is drawn for long-form content, in case you’re wondering how I came up with “seven paragraphs.”

    • Setting off long quotes is helpful, but I think they shouldn’t be longer than a couple paragraphs: the greyed out text can become visually taxing, like italics, if overused.  You can also center a profound bit of wisdom, such as this one from 365 Photos Later:

      Practice makes perfect.

      Small recommendation: it looks like you're using a preformatted text block for your "Practice makes perfect" paragraph, but a block quote (like what I've used above to quote your text) would be more appropriate. 🙂

      Block quotes (the button with the quote icon in Cake's formatting toolbar) are great for the purpose you describe, but preformatted text blocks are meant for things like sharing blocks of software code or old-school ASCII art or other things that require a fixed-width font and no automatic wrapping.

    • It looks like you're using a preformatted text block for your "Practice makes perfect" paragraph, but a block quote (like what I've used above to quote your text) would be more appropriate.

       I disagree

      Actually, I had no idea what some of these formatting options were officially used for. I find the pre-formatted text option to be a good way to provide a momentary pause after multiple scrolls’ worth of text, especially if I have several more scrolls of thought for my kind reader to slog through.

      Ideally, we would be able to break up sections by inserting photos in between text, instead of only at the end. ADVrider does a nice job of providing these photo pauses with their ride reports, like this incredible piece from Evergreen.

    • So if you want to start writing, just do it. If you want to make writing a hobby, just do it. It's a great skill to have, and one that I think will become more and more valuable the more technology becomes entwined in our lives.

      As always. a wonderfully crafted conversation. I especially liked your idea of jotting down notes on your phone. I usually do similar on my iPhone and let it simmer for at least a day or two, or longer. Often, a second conversation idea will appear during the simmering process and it becomes a deliberation as to which idea is more relevant or timely.